Credit Card Applications: How to Apply for 2017‘s Top Cards

Credit Card Applications: How to Apply for 2017's Top Cards

credit card advice

Brittney Mayer
By: Brittney Mayer
Posted: June 12, 2017
Opinions expressed here are ours alone, and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by any issuer. Site may be compensated through the issuer affiliate programs.

Before the rise of the internet, applying for a credit card was a laborious process. Your choices were often limited to the mail or the bank, which essentially came down to choosing between filling out a long, tedious form — or enduring a long, tedious interview.

While modern credit card applicants can still choose to honor their ancestors by using the mail-in form — or practice the art of small talk with their local teller — today’s credit seeker has an even better option: the online application. Online credit card applications are usually the fastest way to apply — often in 13 lines or less — and typically resulting in an answer in just 60 seconds.

The application will request standard personal information, such as your name and address, as well as information about your income and employment status. You’ll also need to agree to allow the credit card issuer to run your credit, the result of which will determine whether your credit card application is accepted, and, if so, the terms you are offered by the issuer.

Excellent Credit | Good Credit | Fair Credit | Bad Credit

Best Cards for Excellent Credit (750+ FICO Score)

The crème de la crème of the credit card applicant pool, those with excellent credit have high credit scores and pristine credit reports. They’ve shown a long, steady history of positive financial behavior, including having a healthy mix of credit and maintaining all of their accounts in good standing.

To reward their credit diligence, excellent credit applicants are almost guaranteed acceptance for most credit cards (provided they meet income requirements). Additionally, these cardholders will be offered the lowest interest rates and fees, as well as many of the best rewards and signup bonuses.

Discover it® - Cashback Match™ Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

EXCELLENT CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • Our Take: "One of our favorite cards, with long 0% intro APRs, low ongoing APRs, awesome cash back rewards, and lots more.
  • 5% cash back in categories that rotate quarterly, up to $1,500 per quarter when you sign up for the quarterly bonus
  • 1% cash back on all your other purchases
  • With Cashback Match you could turn $200 into $400, as the card matches the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year (only for new cardmembers)
  • No limit to the amount of cash back that can be matched"
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
0% for 14 months
11.99% - 23.99% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card Review

at Wells Fargo'ssecure website

EXCELLENT CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases
  • Enjoy 1.8% cash rewards on qualified mobile wallet purchases, like Apple Pay® or Android Pay™, during the first 12 months from account opening
  • No category restrictions or sign ups and cash rewards don't expire as long as your account remains open
  • Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card
  • 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a 13.99%-25.99% variable APR; balance transfer fees apply
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
0% for 12 months
13.99%-25.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good

EXCELLENT CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
16.99% - 23.99% Variable
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
Excellent Credit

+See More Cards for Excellent Credit

The caveat to the near-guaranteed acceptance will often be meeting an individual issuer’s requirements for application frequency. For example, Chase is infamous for rigorously upholding its “5/24 Rule,” which stipulates that applicants cannot have applied for more than five new lines of credit in the last 24 months, regardless of their credit score.

Best Cards for Good Credit (700+ FICO Score)

Before you reach excellent credit status, you’ll spend some time in the good credit category. Those with good credit scores have demonstrated many of the same healthy credit behaviors as their excellent-credit counterparts, such as paying their bills on time and as agreed, but may not have the same diversity of credit types or as extensive a credit history.

Thanks to their healthy histories, good credit applicants are likely to be approved for many prime credit cards, including great travel and cash back cards. While not as low as the rates offered to excellent credit consumers, those with good credit can still expect low interest rates and fees.

GOOD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase — it's automatic
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.99-24.74%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • No annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
15.99% - 24.74% Variable
$0
Excellent/Good
Discover it® - 18 Month Balance Transfer Offer Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

GOOD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • Our Take: "With a ridiculously good deal on balance transfers, low APR's, and a generous cash-back program, we can see why this card is so popular.
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months
  • 5% cash back in rotating categories that rotate quarterly, up to $1,500 per quarter when you sign up for the quarterly bonus
  • 1% cash back on all your other purchases.
  • Matches the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year (only for new cardmembers)
  • No limit to the amount of cash back that can be matched"
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 6 months
0% for 18 months
11.99% - 23.99% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

+See More Cards for Good Credit

One of the main differences between applying for a credit card with good credit instead of excellent credit will likely be your approved credit limit. While most people believe the credit limit is set by their income alone, income is only one of the factors. As with the general approval for a credit card, the limit for which you are approved will be most heavily influenced by your credit score.

Best Cards for Fair Credit (650+ FICO Score)

Being in the “fair” credit category shows you’ve made some of the right moves — but still have room to grow. This may mean you’re working on building your credit for the first time, or could indicate you have had a few hiccups with your credit, such as making several late payments, and need to rebuild.

Fair-credit consumers represent more of a credit risk to issuers and, thus, will not receive the same attractive rates as those with good or excellent credit. They also won’t qualify for the same rewards deals and signup offers, though consumers with fair credit can still find solid rewards card and great everyday cards.

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.5/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Use your QuicksilverOne card and get 50% back as a statement credit on your monthly Spotify Premium subscription, now through April 2018
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Fraud coverage if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.99% (Variable)
$39
Average, Fair, Limited

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

3.8/5.0
  • Pay no annual fee
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
  • Pay by check, online or at a local branch, all with no fee - and pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited
Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Building Credit Review

at Credit One'ssecure website

FAIR CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • See if you Pre-Qualify without harming your credit score.
  • This fully unsecured credit card with no deposit requirement can be helpful in growing or building credit. Your account activity will be reported monthly to all three major credit bureaus.
  • All the features you want in a credit card are included. Get 1% cash back on eligible purchases, take advantage of free online credit score tracking, and enjoy credit line increase opportunities. Terms apply.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
16.99% - 24.99% Variable
$0 - $99
Fair

+See More Cards for Fair Credit

With fair credit, credit card options will be more limited than for those with better credit. To test the waters before applying for a credit card well outside your qualification range, you should check for pre-qualification or pre-approval offers.

Screenshot of Citi Pre-Approval Form

Pre-qualifying for a credit card can be a good way to test the waters without impacting your credit score.

Unlike an official credit card application, the applications for pre-qualified credit card offers use a soft credit pull, rather than a hard pull, so it won’t affect your credit. If you receive a pre-qualification credit card offer, it can indicate you may be approved for that credit card were you to apply.

Best Cards for Bad Credit (<650 FICO Score)

Consumers with bad credit have likely experienced some bumps in the credit road, perhaps including several missed payments, defaulted loans, or even bankruptcy, and are at the bottom of the credit totem pole. Because of the poor credit behaviors demonstrated by those with bad credit, many issuers are wary of providing credit, meaning you may need to focus on issuers who specifically deal with subprime borrowers.

Another option for bad credit consumers struggling to obtain an unsecured credit card is to apply for a secured credit card. Requiring a cash deposit to open, secured credit cards are easier to get than unsecured cards but have many of the same features. For example, a secured card with a MasterCard logo can be used to make purchases anywhere MasterCard is accepted.

Fingerhut Credit Account Review

at Fingerhut'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • Use your line of credit to shop over 450,000 items from great brands like Samsung, KitchenAid, and DeWalt
  • Take advantage of low monthly payments if you apply and are accepted for a Fingerhut Credit Account issued by WebBank, who determines eligibility and qualifications for the terms of credit
  • Fast, easy online application process and a quick decision
  • Not an access card
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
See Issuer Website
$0
Poor Credit

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • No annual fee, and all the credit building benefits with responsible card use
  • Unlike a prepaid card, it builds credit when used responsibly, with regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
  • You will get an initial $200 credit line after making a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200, determined based on your creditworthiness
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time with no additional deposit needed
  • Easily manage your account 24/7 with online access, by phone or using our mobile app
  • It's a credit card accepted at millions of locations worldwide
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.99% (Variable)
$0
Limited, Bad
Total Visa® Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

3.5/5.0
  • Checking Account Required
  • Fast and easy application process; response provided in seconds
  • A genuine VISA card accepted by merchants nationwide across the USA and online
  • Manageable monthly payments
  • If approved, simply pay a Processing Fee to open your account and access your available credit
  • Reports monthly to all three major credit bureaus
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
See Terms
See Terms
Fair, Bad Credit

+See More Cards for Bad Credit

The credit card issuers who specialize in applicants with poor credit make up for the higher risk of their customers by charging cardholders fairly high interest rates, and many also charge additional fees. Compare your options before applying for a subprime card to ensure you have the best deal.

Chart Showing Credit Score Considerations

Of course, the way to quality for the best credit cards is to improve your credit score. Paying your debts as agreed, establishing a healthy mix of credit types, and maintaining low balances on your credit cards can all contribute to rebuilding your credit.

Your Credit Future is an Application Away

Whether you like to put pen to paper, chat it up in person, or fly through an online application, applying for a new credit card can be an important step to building or maintaining your credit. The way you use — and the way you pay — your new credit card will influence your overall credit and help determine your future creditworthiness, so be sure to practice responsible credit behaviors.